Argentina head home on Sunday with their World Cup dream in tatters and coach Diego Maradona lamenting the toughest day of his life as he considers whether to quit.
The South American giants didn’t just lose to long-time rival Germany in the quarter-finals, they were humiliated 4-0 and it appears Maradona’s reign could be over.
A third-minute goal by Thomas Mueller stunned the Argentines, putting them in an unaccustomed position, and they never recovered.
Germany turned the screw after the interval with Miroslav Klose getting two more in his 100th game and centre-back Arne Friedrich scoring his first for his country.
It was Argentina’s worst World Cup defeat since they lost to the Netherlands, also 4-0, in 1974 and Maradona said he felt a deep sadness.
“The day I stopped playing football could be similar, but this sadness is really strong,” said the former midfield maestro, who hung up his boots on his 37th birthday in 1997.
“It’s tough because the idea was to go beyond this match and be among the four best teams and we didn’t achieve that.
“We all had this hope and dream and we were just thinking about winning and the opposite happened.”
As one of Argentina’s most celebrated and controversial figures, on and off the field, Maradona has been through countless highs and lows, but he said Saturday’s defeat was the hardest thing he had ever faced.
“I lived through this in 1982 as a player. I was a boy and didn’t realise the importance of things,” he said.
“Today I’m nearly 50, I’m mature and this is the toughest moment in my life. It is really like a kick in the face. I have no more energy for anything.”
Maradona, who was appointed coach in November 2008 after overcoming cocaine addiction despite having little previous managerial experience, indicated that that he may quit, but that he needed time to think.
He said in his post-match press conference that “I may leave tomorrow”, but when pushed, Maradona appeared to backtrack. “We will see what happens. I haven’t thought about leaving, I have to check with my family, with the players. There are a number of things I have to consider,” said the 49-year-old. “But as coach and player, the type of football people like is this one. Touch the ball, rotate, run, Argentina can’t play a different style.”